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The Interview

Jaye Muller

By John Koch, Boston Globe

What does Jaye the businessman think of Jaye the musician?
It's all melting together. One helps the other. I learn things as an entrepreneur that I put into the music. I benefit from the business experience in the business part of music, marketing records. It's the same person.

What is JFAX?
It started when I was on a performing tour in Britain and wasn't getting my messages. Faxes were sent to the hotel when I was already going to the next one. People left messages, and I wouldn't get them. I thought there must be some service that forwards these things to your e-mail. But it didn't exist, and I started to research and came up with the concept of JFAX, routing faxes and voice mail into your e-mail. It unifies everything. I was 23. I resigned from the board recently because of wanting to do new things. My new company is Boardrush, which I'm starting mostly in Brattleboro. Marlboro College has a new technology center there, and we have an office in the building.

Did JFAX make you wealthy?
Yeah. Now the company is called J2 Global Communications.

What is Boardrush?
I grew up in East Germany with the Stasi [state secret police]. Now, there's this whole Echelon surveillance system mostly run by the United States. [There have been widespread news reports on the spying network but no official confirmation.] For me to come to the West and see this happening is quite astounding. They are listening to virtually every phone call and recording e-mails and faxes all over the world. So Boardrush is hiring scientists and researchers who will build privacy shields for these kinds of new invasions. Businesses that don't want to be spied on will use them. Individuals, too. The first product will probably be a computer product where you can protect yourself from any intrusions.

When did your first album come out?
In Paris in 1994. It was called We Are the Majority; it sold about 350,000 worldwide. I toured throughout Europe. The new album is almost finished. The first one had a lot of rap in it, and there were all kinds of different instruments mixed together and different styles of music. I play all the instruments in the studio. The new album, again, is a mix of styles - progressive pop maybe, but more melodic than the first.

Who's producing it?
My [life] partner, Jack Rieley. He's done a lot of cool things before, and he did my first album. He worked with the Beach Boys in the mid-'70s and Kool & the Gang, and he produced a number of Prince albums.

Will it contain the strong social comment the first one did?
We Are the Majority came out when East and West Germany had just united, and I had my first trips to the United States. I was amazed by how little people knew about what was going on with Germany then, the emergence of nationalism. I felt compelled to put this in the lyrics in a strong way. [One track about Germany is called "The Beast No One Ever Tamed."] The new album will have social comments, but it's not going to be so German-specific.

Do you still publish Germany Alert?
I started this newsletter just before my first album came out, when I noticed nothing was being reported about the dangerous violence going on in Germany. It still is. Skinhead groups and Nazi groups that were mostly dormant in West Germany were forming after unification. They used the despair of East German young people to recruit them and bring about all these German nationalistic feelings and a lot of violence against anybody who wasn't "German." People who were longhaired or gay or dark-skinned or from other countries were being attacked - and are being now.

Were you ever victimized?
In Paris, just before the album came out. I wasn't careful with disclosing my address. The doorbell rang, and four armed German Nazis came in and threw me on the floor and went upstairs where Jack was and threw him on the floor. Everything that had to do with the album was removed: lyric sheets, tapes, diskettes, and things that had to do with Germany. For about a half an hour, we were held at gunpoint. Then the police came, and they never got them.

Now you live in the woods.
I like the lifestyle in Vermont, in New England. The woods is not the right term. There are all sorts of people here and in a non-hype way: musicians, economists, incredible artists. It's absolutely not boring or backwater. The idea was maybe to spend two months here in Vermont to relax, and do business in New York. But now I'm here most of the time.

Tell me about the Warhol graphic of Lenin in your dining room.
Seeing the inequalities here [after growing up in East Berlin], I was shocked. I know it doesn't have to be like this. I don't agree with everything Lenin represented, and the same with the East German politicians who were in power. But it's not an ironic statement that I have Lenin hanging there. There are some valuable things to be learned.

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